Israel's Hapoalim will pay $870 million to end U.S. tax probe

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's biggest bank, Hapoalim, POLI.TA said on Wednesday it expects to pay $870 million to settle a U.S. tax evasion investigation.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's biggest bank, is seen at their main branch in Tel Aviv, Israel July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

The bank said in a regulatory filing it will increase its provision for the tax probe in the fourth quarter to $259 million, in addition to $611 million it had already set aside.

For several years, U.S. authorities, including the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the New York Department of Financial Services, have been investigating accusations that the Israeli bank helped U.S. clients evade taxes.

“Recently, the bank group and each of the DOJ and bank regulatory teams handling the investigations have extensively negotiated the terms of resolutions, which, once approved by the U.S. authorities and the bank group and finalized, would resolve the investigations,” Hapoalim said.

The settlement would be a deferred prosecution agreement, the bank said. Its subsidiary in Switzerland will sign a plea agreement with the DOJ relating to its business with its American customers.

“The final sign off will pave the way (for) the accelerated growth of Hapoalim’s loan book, dividend resumptions and share buy-backs,” Barclays analyst Tavy Rosner said.

Hapoalim's main rival, Bank Leumi LUMI.TA, in 2014 agreed to pay $400 million to settle two separate investigations into whether it helped U.S. clients evade taxes. Mizrahi Tefahot Bank MZTF.TA paid $195 million a year ago to settle a five-year U.S. tax evasion investigation.

Hapoalim also said it expects to pay $30 million in a non-prosecution agreement, which it will provision in the fourth quarter, to settle a U.S. probe into alleged corruption involving officials from world soccer’s governing body, FIFA.

Hapoalim has said the U.S. probe was looking into accounts held by some of the suspects with the bank.

Shares in Hapoalim were down 2.3% in afternoon trade in Tel Aviv, compared with much steeper 5% declines in the broader market.

The bank is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results in the coming days.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Tova Cohen; Editing by Steven Scheer and Peter Graff